Ambassador Connections: Meet Sara E. Gonzales Texas


Ambassador Connections is a series highlighting NewsLitNation® Ambassadors.

Yearbook and newspaper advisor Sara Gonzales’ leads her class of Journalism I and II students through a Checkology lesson at Paetow High School in Katy on Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. Photo credit: Laura Sponaugle for NLP.

1. As a NewsLitNation ambassador, you clearly are committed to news and media literacy education. What drives that commitment? 

I remember the morning after Election Day in 2016 and hearing my students question why fake news and misinformation were such a large part of the election. They sought to have a deeper understanding of how to think critically, to fact check and help others with educated decisions in all facets of their lives. After that day, I made it a small mission of mine to help my students become critical thinkers and to normalize the standard of being news-literate. Every single day in my journalism classes we go over news from the previous 24-hour cycle and cross-verify stories from multiple outlets. If my students learn only one thing out of my journalism classes, I want them to learn how to truly understand the news and media today and how they impact their lives.

2. Please name a favorite tool or tip for teaching news literacy and how students responded to it.

Checkology® is a great tool to bring into the classroom. Recently, we did a Checkology lesson that allowed for the best classroom discussion as we went along. I love the aspect that it can be self-paced or taught as a full class (one-to-many) with the teacher leading instruction.  The best part of the Checkology lessons is seeing that students question whether something is one way or another as they are going through the course. It is eye-opening and makes the learning fun.

As a class, we went through the “Citizen Watchdogs” lesson. A large number of my students had not heard of the Rodney King case, and it made them pause and look at the importance of that event and the unrest that followed in Los Angeles. Through the lesson, students were able to look at how one recorded event caused a national uproar. With this, my students were able to relate information to current news events and find ways to source their information even with people being everyday watchdogs.

3. These are particularly challenging times for being an educator. What has been your go-to de-stressor?

Isabella Semiglasov, Curtezha Woods, ambassador Sara Gonzales, Gabriella Leighton, Yvette Garcia, class of 2023.

I think everything is about balance and learning to know your boundaries. As a new teacher decades ago, there were nights I would be at school until almost 10 p.m., but now I have learned that the work will be there tomorrow. Sometimes that makes my to-do list really long, but I love Post-it® notes to-do lists. You can only put so much on a Post-it, and it is easily attainable. Also, I love to sit and read. Nothing can de-stress you more than getting lost in a book and letting go for a few hours as the pages flow by.


4. NLP’s PitchIt! student contest has recently opened in Texas. How do you think it will help educators with lessons related to news and media literacy in their classrooms?

Jabari Bush (left) and Joseph Ugwu (right) Present Sara Gonzales a uniform after being named Teacher of the Week by the football team. Football players vote and select teachers who have made a difference in their high school careers both in their classroom and as support systems.

Several years ago, Texas passed legislation that requires K-12 news literacy for all school-age children. I think there has been concern of how to best teach news and media in the classroom that is objective and teaches our students to analyze resources. With the News Literacy Project, teachers have free resources with a click of a button. The information is unbiased and gives a holistic perspective of how to properly analyze the news.

This year, through NLP and the Ambassador Program, I have been able to get PitchIt! Texas off the ground and started. PitchIt! is a campaign perfect for teachers of any content to have their students write about news literacy, their thoughts and perspectives. We hope to get students to compete in Texas in such a pivotal election year where their voice matters.

5. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about? 

I am a fierce advocate of diversity in scholastic journalism. I firmly believe that journalism speakers and boards across the country need to be reflective of the voices of our students and mirror the diversity we see in our classrooms daily. In 2019, at the World Journalism Education Congress I was the only high school teacher attending to speak on diversity in scholastic journalism and how to increase the narrative to our reporting. While working with fellow journalists and journalism educators, we came up with five main points to focus on in our classrooms.

  • Journalism educators and journalists must recognize the role news media haveplayed in marginalizing and sometimes traumatizing communities along the fault lines of race, class, gender, disability, generation and geography with missing voices, tokenism and negative stereotypes.
  • A “call to action” to journalism educators and journalists to build diversity, inclusion and equity into all aspects of the curriculum, and a call to newsrooms to foster community accountability and power sharing based on diversity, inclusion and equity in all aspects of their operations.
  • We need to recognize that diversity is an ongoing issue that is interconnected with economics, politics, entertainment and the environment.
  • We must all recognize the impact the intersectionality of identities has on our journalism practices and teaching. This can be achieved through required and ongoing antibias (especially unconscious bias) education and multicultural competency training for educators, students and journalists.
  • We must encourage and actively support students from marginalized groups to become journalists and recognize communicators from representative groups and local communities as professional communicators.

6. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat?

Team dog all the way. I have three dogs: Maebel Lou, Dolly Estelle and Mason. Two are rescues. I can’t imagine my life without my dogs; they are the best and always provide a laugh at the end of a really stressful day. Feel free to ask me about my dogs. I have a story a day about them. There’s never a dull day at my house with them.

✨ The  PitchIt! Student essay contest is open to middle and high school students in Colorado, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania (March 1 deadline) and Texas. Deadlines, rules and prizes vary by state, so please visit this link for details.

More Updates